Insider’s Tips on Clearing CIF

Part II


In my last article I gave many proactive tips about clearing CIF.  In this article I will shed light on CIF’s standards.  Knowing these standards will increase your chances to clear CIF on your first attempt.  Here is some of the basic concepts to keep in mind:

Basic CIF Concepts & Standards:

    - If a piece of TA-50 doesn't meet CIF's standards it will be deemed as "unserviceable."  If the deficiency is not quickly corrected, your TA-50 item will not be accepted back into the military system, and you will face a statement of charges.  In other words, you will be forced to pay for the equipment.
    - CIF has strict standards pertaining to what’s considered serviceable.  Any clothing and equipment that’s damaged or has missing parts will be kicked back. 
    - CIF also has strict standards pertaining to cleanliness.  When CIF says they want their equipment cleaned they mean it.  They want soldiers to use attention to detail while cleaning their gear.
    - Any item that’s burnt, discolored, faded, ripped or has separating seams will be considered unserviceable.
    - If any device is broken such as quick releases, buckles, snaps, zippers, or frames it will be deemed as unserviceable.
    - If buttons, straps, screws, nuts or if any parts are missing it will be considered unserviceable.
    - If any piece of equipment has paint on it, or if it has been written on, it will be deemed unserviceable. Duffle and laundry bags are two of the few exceptions to this rule.  The bottom of a duffle bag can be written on, but the writing must be covered with tan paint before it is returned to CIF.  Although I have heard conflicting information on this issue, laundry bags can have limited writing on it.  Later in this articles I will go into further detail about these 2 pieces of equipment. 

    - If a piece of clothing or equipment has a DRMO stamp on it, it will be deemed as unserviceable.  (*Note:  Before the military establishment sells its surplus to the private sector it is sent to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service or DRMO.  DRMO performs accountability, it marks these products with a DRMO ink stamp, and it prepares the surplus for resale.  In the past, DRMO would auctioned off surplus to various civilian businesses.  Today this reselling process is performed by Defense Logistic Agencies or DLA.)  Bottom line, if any gear was previously sold to the private sector, and it was marked with the DRMO stamp, it will not be accepted by CIF
    - If any official tags or labels are missing it could be deemed as unserviceable. CIF wants to be able to identify NSN, DLA, and SPO numbers that are provided on these military labels.  They also want to see other types of tags that identifies DSCP or Generation III items.  CIF does this to ensure they are accepting genuine issued products and not a close commercial product with a similar appearance.
    - For the most part, CIF wants to receive TA-50 items that are in exceptionally clean condition and in good working order.  If a piece of equipment has been used for several years in the combat arms fields it may be difficult to achieve these standards.  This only heightens the necessity for career soldiers to direct exchange or “DX” TA-50 items when needed.
    - It should be noted that CIF standards are strict, but soldiers are offered some exceptions.  Soldier can request to DX excessively worn or damaged equipment under certain circumstances.  Soldiers can request a report of survey that will try to determine if a soldier is not responsible for stolen military equipment, and commanders can provide their subordinates with field loss or damage statements.  Once again, it’s possible that a soldier can be found not responsible for the loss or damage of TA-50. Unfortunately many are reluctant to explore these allowances, or they completely avoid it.  Many lower enlisted soldiers simply don’t want to make any waves or draw unfavorable attention to them self.  In many respects, this reluctance that lower enlisted soldiers have about seeking out advice about their options is counterproductive to all parties involved. 

  • Attention to Detail: 

    Although I often assist soldiers, and I regularly give advice on clearing CIF, I will confess that it’s been over 20 years since I have served as a soldier.  I recognize that much has changed since I cleared CIF; so on occasion, I will go on line to find new information.  Recently I found some outstanding information at  Let’s look at some of the tips this sources has provided:



                   The key to clearing CIF the first time is to make sure your OCIE (Organizational Clothing & Individual Equipment) is clean, spot painted where needed and all markings are removed.  Our goal is to have your clearance complete in one visit, but you must do your part.  The following items have been found to be the most difficult to clear the first time.  A recommended solution is provided. 

    Barracks bag:   Dirty, Name/Markings on Bag.  SOLUTION:  Wash and remove any name and markings on the bag; Neatly (as small as possible) block out with indelible ink any markings made with permanent marker.  (Any markings deemed too large will require a damage statement)  ETSing personnel must turn in TWO (2) barracks bags.

    Cap, Cold Weather:   All officers and ETS’ing enlisted personnel must turn in a cap.  Wash in cold water paying particular attention to the inside as it may need to be treated with a prespotter and a soft brush to loosen dirt before washing.  Air dry to prevent shrinkage of wool areas.

    Carrier, entrenching tool:   Wash in warm soapy water inside and out, using a soft brush or green pad to remove black marks or rust spots.

    Chemical Suit(top or bottom):   Remove any tape  from the garment before washing in warm soapy water.  Air dry.  If garment is still sticky where tape is removed, dust with talcum powder to remove tackiness. 

    Coverall, Mechanic’s:    When oil and grease is heavy, use a degreaser on the areas and wash in hot soapy water several times to remove.  Air dry.  Garments that are diesel soaked that cannot be removed may need a damage statement.  Permanent stains are acceptable as long as items are clean. (Hint: If you rub a stained area with a piece of paper and the paper comes out dirty it will not pass inspection).

    Duffle Bags:   Wash item using warm soapy water and a soft brush to loosen dirt.  Air dry.

    Helmet, PASGT (kevlar):   Suspension webbing must be scrubbed to remove all oils and dirt, using warm soapy water and a soft brush.  Wipe helmet inside and out to ensure cleanliness.  PLEASE DO NOT SPOT PAINT THE HELMET.

    Field Pack:   Wash with warm soapy water and a soft brush paying close attention to seam areas where dirt tends to collect.  Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue.  Remove all names and markings by neatly blocking them out with a permanent marker.

    Web Gear (All):                  Wash in warm soapy water, scrubbing with a soft brush.  Putting these items in a washer does not clean most items properly.  Pay attention to seams, folds, and crevasses where dirt tends to collect. Clean inside ammo pouches to remove black marks.  Air dry.  DO NOT MACHINE WASH OR DRY.

    Jacket, Flyers (CVC):   Wash using warm soapy water paying attention to ring around collar and cuffs.  These areas may need to be scrubbed with a soft brush to remove dirt and oils not removed in regular laundering.

    Parka/trousers, Wet Weather:  Wash item inside and out using warm soapy water and a soft brush. Wipe dry with a cloth.  CAUTION: NEVER MACHINE WASH OR DRY! 

    Entrenching Tool:   Clean and spot paint using flat black paint.

    Overshoes:   Wash using warm soapy water and a soft brush.  Remove all black marks  from the inside and outside of boots.  DO NOT USE PAINT ON OVERSHOES.

    Mat, Sleeping:  Scrub mat using warm soapy water and a soft brush or green pad. Air dry.

    Liner, Coat:         Wash in Warm soapy water using a degreaser and a soft brush, paying attention to collar and cuffs for dirt build up. Rinse and air dry.

    Suspenders, Quick release:   Clean in warm soapy water using a soft brush to loosen dirt.  Air dry.

    Canteen, Plastic:   Clean with warm soapy water paying particular attention to the area around the neck where dirt can build up in the crevasses.  The use of a soft brush or green pad will be of help in this area.  Remove black marks and ensure the inside is dry to prevent mold and mildew.

    Cup, Canteen; Pan,mess; Fork; Spoon; Knife:   Wash in warm soapy water using a soft brush or green pad to remove rust or black marks.

    Cover, Helmet:  Remove rank and wash in warm soapy water. Air dry.

    Bag, waterproof:   Wash using warm soapy water and a soft brush or green pad inside and out.  Air dry.

    Poncho, Wet Weather:   Wash with warm soapy water and a soft brush or cloth.  Air dry.  DO NOT MACHINE WASH OR DRY!

    Parka, Gortex:  Prewash item using warm soapy water and a soft brush paying attention to the areas around the inside of the hood and collar, and around cuffs where dirt and oils seem to build up.  Wash item in cold water using a mild soap.  Air Dry.  DO NOT MACHINE DRY.


    Sleeping Bag (black or green):  Bag may be laundered in a standard commercial washer using cold water.  Wash temperature should not exceed 140 degrees F.  Drying will be on the lowest setting with the temperature not to exceed 160 degrees F.

    Bivey Cover (CAMMO/Gortex):  Cover may be laundered using a standard commercial washing machine on cold water not to exceed 100 degrees F, and tumble dry using the lowest temperature setting not to exceed 100 degrees F.

      Helmet, Flyers:   Helmet must be clean and inspected by school trained ALSE personnel who are on a valid signature card on file at the special gear area.  Helmet must have a valid Yellow or Red Tag (DD Form 1577).  All Helmets with red Tags (unserviceable) must also be accupanied by a damage statement.  Helmets that have a tag over 30 days old will not be accepted.   NO HELMETS WITH GREEN TAGS WILL BE ACCEPTED!

    NOTES   When a unit is clearing a soldier, the individual doing the clearing is required to bring a memorandum authorizing him/her to clear the soldier along with that soldier’s clearing papers. The individual clearing the soldier will be responsible for cleaning of all items being turned in.

    CIF has a cash sales section for personnel who wish to buy items that are lost or destroyed.  No dirty items may be paid for in lieu of cleaning. NO EXCEPTIONS!  FH Form 735-x1 must be signed by the unit commander unless the individual is E-7 or above, or the individual is ETS ing or PCS ing.

    The following is the unserviceable/damage statement for relief of a service member from responsibility if negligence was not involved.  The statement must include Date, Name, Grade, SSN of the service member and must be signed by the unit commander.  If someone other than the commander signs the statement, it must be accompanied by assumption of command orders for that person.

    “I have reviewed the circumstances surrounding the damage to the above items and find no evidence of negligence or willful misconduct, the damage is a result of a field training exercise.”


    Required Documentation:

    ·         ID Card (Know your pin)

    ·         Copy of your reassignment orders, clearance papers

    ·         Adjustment document (Financial Investigation of Property Loss (FLIPL), Statement of Charges, Cash

              Collection Voucher) for missing Equipment


    Typical Problems when Clearing CIF: 

    ·         Items that are seldom used tend to be lost over time:  Things such as spaghetti straps, mess kits, shelter half items, tie-down straps, lashing straps and over white accessories tend to be lost simply because they’re seldom used.  In some respects the expression “out of sight out of mind” holds true.  If you don’t tend to use a piece of TA-50 you often lose it.  With this in mind, don’t overlook any piece of TA-50, especially the equipment you seldom use.

    ·         The smallest of things tend to take soldiers by surprise:  Very few soldiers place their head inside a wet weather bag to find daylight or prick holes.  Likewise, few soldiers focus on the plastic closing tab on an NBC closing cap that seals a military canteen.  Small things like this are often overlooked since small plastic devices like this typically break, and it’s not considered a big deal during training and inspection exercises.  With this being said, it’s not overlooked at CIF.  All canteens must have a fully functional NBC cap.  The examples provided above should give you some insight into CIF’s lofty standards.

    ·         Anywhere your skin has contact with a clothing item is a focus area for CIF.  Many soldiers don’t realize sweat, dirt and camo stick residue accumulates around your head, neck and wrist areas.  Back in the day, various cleaning products regularly advocated that you should avoid “ring around the collar.”  Today this expression is less used, but it’s still good advice for soldiers who are clearing CIF.

    ·         High dollar items tend to receive higher scrutiny during out processing:  You should place a higher premium on maintaining and cleaning your Gore-Tex, Kevlar and Nomex items.  Take my word when I say you don’t want to pay for these expensive items, and neither does the staff at CIF.  Therefore, any high dollar items should be monitored more closely.

    ·         Certain TA-50 Items Draws More Attention Regardless of Money:  Over the years, many soldiers have asked me for my advice on cleaning their Mickey Mouse Boots.  Since this is a commonly asked question I have connected the dots.  Obviously white Mickey Mouse boots are difficult to clean, and this draws the attention of many CIF workers.  Keep in mind that certain pieces of TA-50 will be more scrutinized than others.  Therefore it’s wise to ask other soldiers who have recently cleared CIF for advice.                                     

    ·         Go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty:  If CIF states they simply want your entrenching tool cleaned, I suggest you take the time and effort to scrape off all of the rust, and spray paint it flat black.  If CIF states it only wants clothing items washed in warm soapy water, I suggest you soak it in a degreaser overnight before washing.  Regardless of the condition of an item when you received it, I suggest you walk the extra mile.  Give your TA-50 back in the same condition (if not better) then when it was issued to you.  


    Summarized Thoughts:

                    Typically speaking, most people are reasonable, and they’re willing to meet you half way.  If you can figure out what people want, and give it to them, you tend to be rewarded.  It’s even better if you can exceed people’s expectation, but in order to do this you need to fully know what’s expected from you.  This explains why I’m writing this article. I hope the information I’m providing you increases your understanding of CIF’s standards, and this in return will make it easier to clear CIF.  Keep in mind, what CIF wants from soldiers is fairly responsible since they’re being held responsible for a multimillion dollar inventory.  Just like you, the workers at CIF don’t want to be held financially liable for any substandard or missing gear.


    Bottom line, if you do your part, you shouldn’t have any major problems.  Clearing CIF might be a time consuming and stressful process, but it’s not overly difficult to understand their standards.  I am completely guessing when I say this, but I estimate the average soldier probably has to pay somewhere between 2 to 4 hundred dollars to clear CIF.  Many people look at these costs associated with clearing CIF as the military’s way of “nickel and diming” soldiers.  I look at it this way; all you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is usually enough.   With this in mind, if you apply yourself and put forth a good effort……you shouldn’t have any major problems.



    William G. McKinney

    Bradley’s Military Enterprises




    -          Tips on forming a CIF clearing strategy.

    -          Tips on understanding CIF’s standards.         (Click here to go to the top of the article)

    -          Tips on understanding your clothing records. 

    -          Tips on cleaning your TA-50